Again with the pigeons

So, more pigeons, this time disguised as doves. This is by a poet named Parvin Etesami, a short-lived but beloved writer of early twentieth-century Iran. She’s one of the few female poets who has gained wide-spread recognition, remarkable considering the tradition-bound era in which she lived. Here’s a Wikipedia article which benefits from a high tolerance for grammatical errors. I can’t vouch for all the facts, being too lazy to double-check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvin_E%27tesami . Her poetry is fascinating; classical forms and tropes (particularly moralistic fables) with a modern tinge to it all. I’m no expert but I’m going to be looking into her work further, so I’ll report back. Bahar, about whom I guess I’m now writing a book, thought highly of her.
I’ve chosen to translate kabutar as “dove” in this poem because that particular bird is meant to represent the beautiful and self-absorbed, which clashes with the image of our own humble pigeon. The crow is just the opposite, a bird held in only slightly higher regard than the accursed owl, a portent of doom and misery (no, really).
Maybe next time I’ll tell you about the kabutarkhane, or pigeon-houses. Cool things. I bet you can’t wait.
Disclaimer: this translation is a work in progress. Actually, that applies to most things here.
Parvin Etesami

Parvin Etesami

White and Black

As dawn took flight, a dove

sat on its nest, preening its feathers but flying nowhere.

From afar an arrow, heart-rending, flew and struck its breast,

proof of the rewards of sarcasm.

Wings and feathers shattered, its body weak,

Hope cut off at the root and veins torn open.

At nightfall, a crow passed by the nest

When it saw the dove in agony, the crow became a doctor.

It removed the arrow and built the dove a shelter,

taking great pains to ease the pain of its patient.

The crow struggled mightily until the windows and roof

were covered with green leaves.

It stole water from the brook and carried it in its beak.

The crow made its way to the garden and plucked fruit from the branches.

At times, a father, at times, a mother, and at times, a guardian,

the crow fed the dove, caressed it, and listened to its complaints.

The crow carried this heavy burden until one day

his patient cast off pain and weariness.

The dove said to the crow, “What relation has black with white?

Who has asked you to come to the aid of strangers?”

The crow answered, “Our intentions are one and the same,

There is no difference between the service of black and white.

Within you, as with me, beats a tiny heart,

I, like you, have a body made of sinew and veins.

One must be pure in speech and a true companion;

What matter whether we be friends of old, or just met?

Never approach in ignorance those who suffer ;

In times of need, do not creep off into a corner of the house to hide.

If the goal is to strive to open the lock of happiness,

what matter whether the key is gold or iron?”

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About M.C. Smith

translatingpersian@gmail.com View all posts by M.C. Smith

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